The sexual harassment case of Lyle v. Warner Brothers Television Productions was recently argued before the California Supreme Court. Defendants argued that scriptwriters should be allowed to engage in sexual comments and gestures in the workplace, even if such behavior is typically held to be abusively severe or pervasive, as part of the “creative process” of scriptwriting for the television show “Friends” as long as the conduct was not addressed specifically to the plaintiff, a female African-American writer’s assistant required to attend, and type up dialogue from, these writers’ meetings.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s grant of defendants’ summary judgment motion, finding triable issues of fact on claims for sexual and racial harassment. It held that defendants could make their “creative necessity” argument to the jury for a determination of whether the sexual conduct was necessary for the performance of the writers’ job, or if it was for “personal gratification, because of meanness or bigotry, or for other personal motives,” as suggested in Reno v. Baird (1998) 18 Cal.4th 640, 646, which defined harassing conduct.

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